Thus begins my daunting task of compressing the highlights of 35 hours worth of music, comedy, and food into a mere three posts. It’s not easy, as this was definitely one of my favorite Outside Lands experiences ever, with the most even distribution of wonderful things to do that I’ve ever enjoyed from this shindig. Here’s how it all started:
My Outside Lands experience began in The Barbary. Usually I reserve this spot for when I need to rest my legs after walking through the park for days, and need to rest my weary bones. However, this year, the first set in the comedy tent was double bill of NYC based comic Aparna Nancherla and LA folk duo Garfunkel & Oates. Two brilliant acts that would sell out any of the major comedy clubs in town. So we lined up early to get a good seat, which was vital, since it ended up being a packed, standing room only, house. Nancherla was a brilliant opener, spitting out dry, witty observations that had the crowd rolling with laughter. The best bit was a great set that was, simply, Nancherla reading OK Cupid emails. Reminding me of the fact that men really don’t know how to talk to women.
Garfunkel & Oates
Regular readers of this blog may already know that I have a great love for the LA comedy/folk duo Garfunkel & Oates. The gave us a fantastic 45 minute set, and yes, if you are familiar with their material, there weren’t a lot of surprises in the songs. However, it seemed that every “fan” dragged an unconverted with them, and that led to intense, tear inducing laughter. These two women, whose real names are Kate Miccuci and Riki Lindhome, are incredibly charismatic performers. Miccuci has the most expressive face this side of Jim Carrey, which expertly punctuated key moments of songs like “Handjob, Blandjob, I Don’t Understand Job” and “The Loophole,” a song about having anal sex because God doesn’t view it as real sex. Lindhome, however, hit the nail on the head best when she described her feelings about getting dragged to see Radiohead many years ago at a festival, and simply blew dissonant noises into a microphone to describe what the set felt like to her. It would be really sad for you if you miss their show next month at Cobb’s.
Pregnant Women Are Smug
Down Here For A While (New song, title assumed)
Handjob, Blandjob, I Don’t Understand Job
The College Try
Run The Jewels
There is a lot of hype around Run The Jewels. For very good reason: it’s a supergroup of sorts, made up of Outkast affiliate Killer Mike and underground legend El-P. Killer Mike’s 2012 record RAP Music was possibly the best hip hop record of 2012, and part of that was produced by El-P, leading up to a full length collaboration. Together, they created a wonderfully inventive full length album. The live performance was even better than the record. El-P is wonderfully real and humble. Killer Mike really lives up to his name. The beats were throbbing and hypnotic, and seriously got the crowd moving. The crowd was even treated to a special guest performance by former Invisibl Skratch Pickle and local turntable legend Q-Bert showing off some expert scratching skills that even caused El-P to stand their in awe.
There are some sets that make you want to move. And there are some sets that make you want to lay in the grass and listen to while enjoying a frothy cold beer. Warpaint are the latter. They are incredibly chill, yet intense, and although frontwoman Emily Kokal is a great performer, you’ve gotta pace yourself at these things. So I enjoyed the blissful intensity of their magnificent set laying in a park. If only every picnic in the park was soundtracked by the sexiest sounding band in rock.
The Panhandle stage is sorely neglected by fans. Mikal Cronin and band started mere moments after Warpaint ended their set down the way at the Twin Peaks stage. His set was a blistering set of melodic garage rock, and, although the crowd was small, it was ferocious. This was a rare moment where we got to experience a circle pit all weekend, with Cronin’s fans going simply apeshit during this fantastic set. Throughout the set, he kept insisting that he is no longer going by Mikal Cronin, and renamed the project SNAKES!!! (Specifically referred to as “Snakes with Exclamation Marks,” so the name might actually be the later) Cronin even threw a ton of T-Shirts into the crowd, claiming them as “totally worthless, since Mikal Cronin doesn’t exist anymore.” Cronin, or SNAKES!!!, is a local hero, and I highly recommend seeing him play whenever you can, since he’s one of the few garage rockers to not flee to LA.
Who is Kacey Musgraves? She was awfully high on the bill for somebody that few people in San Francisco has heard of. She’s also won multiple Grammys and plays to huge crowds all over the country. She’s huge star in the country music world, something that people really don’t know about in this town. The meager crowd was treated to an excellent surprise performance. She was aware of the fact that this wasn’t her turf, and worked extra hard to make sure she could win over the crowd. Her voice is stunning and potent, and, just to make sure she’s got all her bases covered, she pulled out two highly uncountry songs as covers. Her first olive branch to the hippies came in the form of the Bob Marley classic “Three Little Birds,” sparking the folks laying in the hill to get up and start dancing. Then she reached out to the hipsters with the classic Lee Hazelwood / Nancy Sinatra classic “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” The throbbing baseline and dynamic time changes remained intact, with just a hint of twang added to the mix. Also, the matching suits of her band blew my mind.
Prior to this weekend, all I really knew of Disclosure was their hit “Latch” featuring Sam Smith, which is admittedly addictive. Though it was definitely the highlight of the band’s energy-filled set, it’s now several days later and I still have “When a Fire Starts to Burn” stuck in my head. Though I didn’t have much expectations at all, Disclosure is now on my radar and in my iTunes where they belong. “I think this is the biggest crowd we’ve ever seen in our lives!” one of them remarked in awe. While I’m sure it’s true that it’s the first time they’ve played for an audience of that magnitude, I don’t expect it’ll be their last. (Stacy Scales)
The Tedeschi Trucks Band
I didn’t expect to stay for the entirety of Kacey Musgraves. But I was drawn in and couldn’t leave. I was also starving, so as soon as they finished, I wandered back to the food trucks towards the back of the venue and enjoyed a BBQ Chicken Salad from Rib Whip. While I was eating my dinner, I heard some epic R&B coming from the Sutro Stage. There were triumphant horns, several distinct voices, and some killer guitar playing. It was as if a force of nature was pulling me back to the stage. I have never heard of this band, and only vaguely knew who Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi were. I assumed this would be a meandering blues set. That was not what we got- this was a set of classic soul music. Tedeschi’s voice was buttery smooth, as well as two male singers, one smooth, one gruff, making for a wonderfully eclectic set. Two fantastic surprises in a row at this festival, and I’m converted.
Kanye West’s set on the main stage was the most talked about set leading up to the show. However, the counter programming of UK’s Arctic Monkeys was the night’s real headliner. These guys, after being superstars at home for nearly a decade, have finally broken through in the US. The sea of people at the Twin Peaks stage was the most massive crowd I’ve ever seen on a side stage at this event. These guys have evolved into a major live powerhouse, distancing themselves from their punkier roots into some darker, groovier, and with some of the tightest harmonies I’ve ever heard. They still played early hits like “You Look Pretty Good On The Dancefloor,” however the more recent hits like “Only Call Me When Your High” were the things the really got the crowd going, and sounded amazing in the park. It was a wonderful way to end to truly glorious set.
Oh, Kanye. I really wanted to enjoy your set. I really wanted you to make it worth my while. I wanted it to have made me elated to have skipped the joy that is Arctic Monkeys for a mind-blowing, Yeezy-redeeming set full of amazingness. And yet… here we are. As you might expect, Mr. West’s set began before a massive, rowdy crowd. At first it was hard to focus on his face, because it appeared that he had a beanie or some kind of mask over his face. I watched the screens to be sure, and then realized what I was seeing: he was wearing a white hood, covered in diamonds (or something similarly sparkly), that was sewn into the neck of his shirt. In other words, it wasn’t coming off. There’s a reason superhero movies always show you the hero’s face at least once, folks: so that you have something to relate to. Not only did ‘Ye not ever give us that, I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who realized that it would’ve been theoretically possible for someone other than Kanye to have performed the set in its entirety. Do I think it was really Kanye? Yes, but that’s beside the point. His set was erratic, jumping around from song to song and then back again. While I appreciate that he gave me more of the older stuff I enjoy (the first 3.5 albums, specifically), it just wasn’t enough to give me anything close to the satisfaction I felt after I saw him last. (The first and only other time I’ve ever seen him live, back on his Glow in the Dark Tour back in 2008.)
Aside from giving wife Kim Kardashian a shout out to wherever she stood in a VIP section, Kanye’s set was lean on the mini-rants for which he’s so well known. Nothing especially crazy was said, but one thing I overheard multiple groups of people discussing well into the next day was the comment that “at the Yeezy show, everyone is a star, cause I promote self-confidence. If you’re a fan of Kanye, you’re really just a fan of yourself!” I’m not sure I follow the logic, but I definitely agree that Kanye is, first and foremost, his own biggest fan. Oh, and he also announced, “Kanye wants you to tell your kids about this night!” What exactly should we tell them, Mr. West? I wondered as I watched the crowd steadily hemorrhage people throughout the entire set. Thanks for “Bound 2” and “Heartless,” which I love, but otherwise, Kanye was forgettable at best and quite frankly regrettable. Next time I’d opt for Arctic Monkeys without a moment’s hesitation, and that’s all there is left to say. (Stacy Scales)